New mayor of Hertsmere appointed after accusations of homophobia

PUBLISHED: 10:14 20 November 2020 | UPDATED: 14:21 20 November 2020

Mayor of Hertsmere, Cllr Alan Plancey. Picture: Hertsmere Borough Council

Mayor of Hertsmere, Cllr Alan Plancey. Picture: Hertsmere Borough Council

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A new mayor of Hertsmere has been sworn in following the tragic death of the previous incumbent, Councillor Cynthia Barker.

Cllr Christian Gray and Cllr Chris Myers. Picture: Potters Bar LabourCllr Christian Gray and Cllr Chris Myers. Picture: Potters Bar Labour

A full Hertsmere Borough Council meeting took place on Wednesday which elected Cllr Alan Plancey, although the meeting had to be briefly adjourned.

The meeting became heated as, a few days prior, Hertsmere Labour sent an open letter to Cllr Plancey accusing him of making homophobic comments in a video from 2014.

The letter, which can be found on Hertslabour.org.uk, quotes the former rabbi of Borehamwood and Elstree Synagogue as saying he thought LGBT demonstrations calling for acceptance were “completely wrong” and that they “would get more acceptance and more love if [they] do it quietly and unobtrusively”.

During the meeting, when asked for formal nominations for the role of mayor, Potters Bar Furzefield Labour Cllr Christian Gray nominated Cllr Richard Butler and went on to say he could not vote for Cllr Plancey in light of the “deeply problematic, homophobic language he used”.

However Cllr Gray was asked to refrain from making any further comments about Cllr Plancey, and the meeting was adjourned.

Though Cllr Gray announced he would continue his speech, to which Cllr Morris Bright responded “shame on you” and Cllr Jean Heywood, Potters Bar Oakmere, interrupted to call Cllr Gray a “disgrace”.

Following the adjournment Cllr Alan Plancey, who was mayor from May 2019 until June, was elected mayor until the end of this mayoral year in May 2021, Cllr Anne Swerling remains as deputy mayor.

After the meeting Cllr Morris Bright, leader of Hertsmere Borough Council, addressed the situation, he said: “The ‘open letter’ from Labour lectures Cllr Rabbi Alan Plancey about what is and isn’t acceptable by way of his beliefs. It condemns him without the writer even having the honour or courtesy to speak with him before publishing it.

“Cllr Plancey is understandably deeply hurt. For the record he has made it clear in the video interview from all those years year ago that he was quoting the Torah. He stated that it was the homosexual act that was forbidden in the Torah not the people.

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“Mayor Rabbi Alan Plancey is a man in his late 70s. He has lived and breathed with pride his religion every waking day almost all of his life. He cannot change the writings and law of the Jews. Yet on a personal level he has always been being respectful to everyone, throughout his 40 years as a local Rabbi and over 10 years as a county and borough councillor.

“He offered for his name not to be put forward as mayor. The Conservative group were very clear that he should not feel coerced in to stepping back.

“Cllr Rabbi Alan Plancey would never wish to do anything to upset our borough, our officers, councillors nor residents. And he is the right person to take on this temporarily role of being Mayor for six months following the sad and tragic death of our friend and colleague, Mayor Cllr Cynthia Barker a few months ago.”

After the meeting, Cllr Myers said: “If there was any doubt about the new mayor’s lack of contrition for his use of homophobic language he reaffirmed it in a radio interview he gave at the Council offices last night. Far from any apology for the hurt his words have caused the LGBTQ+ community, his first act as mayor was to double down with his homophobic tropes. This time conflating homosexuality and paedophilia.”

“Cllr Gray continued: “Today we are hurting for the LGBTQ+ people in Hertsmere. However, the community can take solace in the love and support received from local residents. This is not the end of the matter. In the year 2020, on the 17th anniversary of the abolishment of the homophobic section 28 legislation, the fight against discrimination goes on.”

Following his appointment Cllr Plancey promised to undertake his duties faithfully, saying: “There can be no sadder set of circumstances to be inaugurated as mayor than the present situation.

“Cynthia was incredibly proud and honoured to be made Mayor of Hertsmere and her passing was a terribly premature end to her tenure. My thoughts have been and continue to be with Cynthia’s friends and family at this time.

“I will aim to do my absolute best to serve as mayor for the duration of the term and hold this office with the dignity and authority that Cynthia brought to the role.

“I want to thank everyone who supported me during my previous term as mayor and I look forward to, once again, serving the community of Hertsmere, in whatever way I can.”

For the rest of his term, Cllr Plancey will be supporting the mental health charity Mind, as well as Camp Simcha which supports Jewish families living with serious childhood illness across the UK.

A tribute fund set up in Cllr Barker’s name for her chosen charity, the NSPCC, has raised more than £15,000. The fund is currently closed to donations but anyone wishing to show their support for the NSPCC can do so by visiting their website nspcc.org.uk.

If you would like to invite the mayor to attend an event please contact 020 8207 7477 or email mayors.secretary@hertsmere.gov.uk.


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